It is indeed rare in the history of mankind that great souls like Bhagirath and Dadhichi graced the Earth with the nectar of the holy Ganges and nurtured the roots of divinity by their tapa and self-sacrifice. Pandit Sriram Sharma Acharya undoubtedly belongs to this category of divine rishis. His life and work represent a marvellous synthesis of the noble thoughts and deeds of great personalities like Swami Vivekanand, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Socrates and Confucius.
Rev. Pt. Sriram Sharma was a rishi of the present age whose heart pulsated with compassion for all beings.
Every moment of his life was devoted to the welfare of people and the refinement of the moral and cultural environment. He also pioneered the revival of spirituality and creative integration of the modern and ancient sciences and religion relevant in the challenging circumstances of the present times. His personality was a harmonious blend of a saint, spiritual scientist, yogi, philosopher, psychologist, writer, reformer, freedom fighter, researcher, eminent scholar and visionary. It would require several volumes to record the attainmens of his life. Here we are only giving a glimpse of his superhuman personality.
Acharya Sriram Sharma (revered as "Gurudev" by his disciples) was a great devotee of Goddess Gayatri and had attained perfection in realising its utmost potential.
He successfully practised and mastered the highest kinds of sadhanas described in Hinduism. He also deciphered the hidden science of Tantras. He attained the supreme knowledge of the philosophy and science of the Gayatri Mantra and yoga. In essence, he perfected a vast range of spiritual disciplines. He pioneered experiments on simple sadhanas, which could be easily pursued by the common masses. He initiated programmes of spiritual and intellectual refinement of millions of people without any discrimination of religion, caste, creed, sex, or social status. He propagated this knowledge for the enlightenment of people across the globe.
The early years:
Sriram Sharma was born on the 20th September 1911 as the son of Pt. Roopkishor Sharma and Mata Dankunvari Devi in Anvalkheda (Dist. Agra, India). That his saintly heart was concerned for the welfare of common masses was clearly expressed since his childhood when, as a small boy, he took a brave step of nursing an old "untouchable" woman suffering from leprosy against the strong disapproval and displeasure of his family.
The eminent patriot, scholar and founder of the Banaras Hindu University Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya initiated Sriram in the worship of Gayatri mantra when he was nine years old. On the auspicious day of Vasant Panchami festival, January 18, 1926, a guru by the name of Swami Sarveshvaranandji "a great Himalayan yogi" appeared before him in astral body from the flame of the dipaka (lamp)1 during his Gayatri worship. This sparked the revelation of the divine origin and purpose of his life and bestowed upon him with the grace and guidance of his guru...The next 24 years of his life were devoted to 24 Mahapurashcara as each consisting of the rhythmic recitation (japa) of 2.4 million Gayatri Mantra with strictest of disciplines. There is no parallel to this kind of sadhana. At the same time, he also whole heartedly participated in the freedom struggle of India under the inspiring guidance of Mahatma Gandhi, while continuing with his altruistic activities for the good of the society and attending to the familial duties.
In 1943, he married Bhagwati Devi, and ever since, the saintly couple dedicatedly pursued the noble mission of spiritual upliftment of humankind.
A creator of evolutionary literature:
His spiritually enlightened wisdom had its reach into the deepest depths of human mind. He felt the pains of humanity in his heart. He could therefore diagnose the root cause of the ailing state of the world today as the crisis of faith, people's ignorance of the powers of the inner self, and the lack of righteous attitude and conduct.
Realizing the potential of inspiring literature and its relevance in the present era of intellectual evolution, he had chosen writing as the principal mode towards uprooting the evil tendencies and blind faith from people's minds and arousing the indwelling wisdom, strength and spiritual bliss.
Sriram Sharma initiated the unique movement of Vicara Kranti (thought revolution) with the very first issue of "Akhand Jyoti". By 1960, he had translated the 4 Vedas, 108 Upnishadas, 6 Darshanas, 18 Puranas, Yogavashishtha, and hundreds of Arnyakas and Brahmanas in Hindi with lucid commentaries to enable the masses to understand the knowledge contained in them. The translation was also aimed at eliminating misconceptions, superstitions and blind customs, which were propagated in the medieval era by deliberate misinterpretations of the Vedas and other scriptures. This invaluable contribution to the world of knowledge and human culture was highly acclaimed and appreciated by savants and saints like Dr. S. Radhakrishana and Acharya Vinoba Bhave; the distinguished title of "Vedmurti" was conferred upon him in its recognition.
Understanding the modern day psychology of the people, and recognizing the non-relevance, in the present times, of the mythical characters and the background of life depicted in the Puranas, he wrote "Pragya Purana" in the narrative and conversational style of the ancient Puranas to preach the eternal principles of happy, progressive and ideal life with practical guidance relevant to the modern age.
He wrote about 3000 books on almost all aspects of human life, whether it be the elucidation of the esoteric aspects of the subtle science of spirituality, research directions on brain and consciousness, discussions on child psychology and family institutions, guidelines on mental, emotional and physical health, healthy food and positive and cheerful attitude in daily life. In his comprehensive and penetrating analysis we find no place for delusion, confusion or misconception. Through his literature he strikes a chord of empathy in the reader. The message conveyed in the literature touches the reader's heart with deep sensitiveness, producing a sea change in his attitudes and ideologies.
His discourses manifested similar perfection of eloquence. The simplicity of language in his orations and his ability to establish a rapport with the audience had a hypnotizing effect on the listeners mind. The spiritual radiance and integrity of his character, faultless synchronicity of his deeds with the principles he preached and the purity of his sentiments added to the motivating power of his pen and voice.
A Global Movement:
On the completion of the 24 mahapurashcaraas, Pt. Sriram Sharma established Gayatri Tapobhumi at Mathura (India) in 1953. He organised a grand Gayatri Yajna in 1958, which served as a base to launch the Yug Nirman Yojna, a global movement for moral, cultural, intellectual and spiritual refinement and reconstruction. The objectives of this movement are to reform the individual, the family and social values of mankind and to change the current ideologies and concepts of morality and social structure for a better tomorrow.
Through various activities at Mathura, including the performance of yajnas on large scale, Acharyaji gathered a team of dedicated men and women. Thus the organisation called "Gayatri Pariwar" was born.
As per the plans projected under the Yug Nirman Yojna, the mission has contributed to the upliftment of the personal, familial and social aspects of human life. Its major activities include mass awareness and education on cultural values through small and large scale Gayatri Yajnas and collective projects of social transformation with people's voluntary participation. Propagation of ideal marriages without dowry and extravagant shows has been a significant and trend-setting achievement, especially in the Indian context. Other achievements include upliftment of the social status of women and an integrated and self-reliant development of villages.
The Establishment of Shantikunj:
The period 1971-1990 witnessed remarkable multifaceted accomplishments of Acharyaji�s life. He climbed the arduous and mystic heights of the Himalayas several times and stayed there for specific sadhnas as per the guidance of his guru. In 1971 he instituted the mission�s headquarters at Shantikunj (Haridwar, India) as an academy for moral and spiritual awakening and training. Here he began revival of ancient spiritual disciplines that were the hallmarks of Indian Culture.
Gurudev pioneered the resurrection of the rishi culture by simultaneous renaissance and expansion of the reformative and constructive endeavours of the leading rishis of the Vedic Age. He reviewed the immortal contributions of the divine culture of India to the rest of the world and endeavoured for nurturing and re-establishing the foundational elements of the Indian Culture and the roots of its divine nature in new scientific light through several activities of the Gayatri Pariwar.
.As a part of his intensive study of the Indian culture and religious philosophy, he rediscovered the sociological and psychological importance of pilgrimage. He taught us how the ancient glory and the real purpose of the tirthas (sacred places of pilgrimage) could be revived in the present times for the welfare of the masses.
The Dev Sanskrati Vishwavidyalaya (Divine Culture University)3 recently inaugurated under the auspices of Shantikunj is an instrument for the revival of the Divine Indian Culture as per his vision.
Gurudev was convinced that modern man could not be persuaded to accept the values of life patronised by ancient spirituality until and unless these were proved to be scientifically viable for the welfare of the individual and the society. This was indeed a Herculean task, given the trends of intellectual and scientific evolution over past millennium and almost simultaneous deterioration of religion and culture, which had resulted in a near total neglect of spirituality in the human life and the emergence of blind faiths, misconceptions, and prejudices. The Brahmavarchas Research Institute founded by him in 1979 near Shantikunj stands as a living example of how his ideas could be implemented and researched in the modern laboratories. Sukshmikarana Sadhana and the Dawn of the New Era:
During 1984-1986, he carried out the unique spiritual experiment of sukshmikaraa, meaning sublimation of vital force and physical, mental and spiritual energies. He authored a special set of 20 books (termed Revolutionary Literature or Krantidharmi Sahitya) highlighting the future of the world and conveying the message of the dawn in of the New Era of Truth during the 21st Century. On 2nd June 1990, he voluntarily shed his physical sheath.
Thereafter, his soulmate revered Mata Bhagavati Devi guided the series of Ashwamedha Yagyas, which accelerated the pace of global expansion of the mission during the critical juncture of the decade of change of a millennium and change of an era. She too joined Acharya Sharma in the subliminal domains of divinity after leaving her physical body on the 19th September 1994.
The divine light of knowledge and human glory kindled by them continues to illuminate the excelling path of their great mission under the auspices of Shantikunj and promises the ushering in "The Age of Truth" in the years to come.
The last message of Gurudev unfolds the divine purpose of his incarnation and also assures us of the bright future. Part of it reads: "The light, of which I have been an instrument, a medium, will not extinguish with my withdrawal from the physical realm. I assure my followers that I will continue living and working with them at Shantikunj and elsewhere in my astral-causal body and guide, help and inspire them in their efforts to lead humanity into the Golden Era of Truth, Light and Immortality. I will finally merge into the Blissful Luminous causal self, after humanity has taken a decisive leap into the cosmic consciousness and attained the light of the New Era of Spiritual Unity, Harmony and Peace. My blessings, love and prayer-filled wishes to all. I will always be with them in their selfless and noble endeavours in this divine work." Notes:
1. This lamp is lighted continuously since that day (Jan. 18, 1926). It is enshrined at Shantikunj, Hardwar.
2. He did not accept any awards during his lifetime. The Government of India honoured him posthumously by releasing a postal stamp in his name in 1992.
3. For details see the article "Dev Sanskrati Vishwavidyalaya A University Foundation." in this issue.